What laundry temperature is best for washing your clothes? If you've ever pulled a pink shirt out of the washing machine when a white one went in, or put on a fresh pair of jeans that are still sporting the signs of last week's lunch, you know that washing clothes can get complicated now and then.
This guide to choosing the correct laundry temperature for washing clothes can help sort things out.
Sure, the quickest - and seemingly safest - way for washing whites, medium colors, and darks is to wash them all in cold water.
Laundry temperatures below 70 degrees are considered too cold for effective washing and should be used only when washing lightly soiled and non-colorfast clothes.
In short: The hotter the water, the more effective the laundry detergent will be. Laundry detergents are more active in higher temperatures and will get your clothes cleaner.
In fact, when using cold water for washing, you'll need to increase the amount of detergent 1-and-one-half times the recommended amount.
Detergent works by loosening dirt and soils from fabrics. Then it holds the removed dirt in the wash water until it can be rinsed away.
If you use too little detergent and the water is cold, clothes can become dull and dingy, and white items my turn gray or yellowed, body soils are left on cuffs and collars, and lint isn't held in the water until it is rinsed away and is instead redeposited on clothes.
Worse, you might notice soils starting to build up on the outer tub of the washer. These soils then wash off during the next load and are redeposited on other loads. Ick. Err the other way.
(Shop for top-rated laundry detergents here.)
Hot water (130 degrees F. or above; 54 degrees C. or above) works well on ground-in and hard-to-remove dirt on sturdy fabrics.
Still, few labels recommend regular hot water washing. Use it to clean seriously soiled sturdy garments (gardening or children's clothing), and to regularly disinfect dish towels, washcloths, bath towels, bedding, and pillowcases.
Light and dark fabrics should be separated as hot water may cause clothes to bleed.
Delicate and coarse or sturdy fabrics should be separated to prevent abrasion and protect clothes from wear and tear. (Whites warrant the solo treatment no mater what the temperature.)
Warm water (90 degrees F.; 32 degrees C.) minimizes color fading and wrinkling. It is best for synthetic fibers, natural and synthetic blends and moderately soiled fabrics.
Cold water (80 degrees F.; 27 degrees C.) will protect most dark or bright-colored clothing from running and minimizes shrinkage. Use cold water for lightly soiled fabrics and clothes with blood, wine or coffee stains.
If you're going to do a cold water wash, check first for stains and pretreat stained areas as needed; your washing detergent doesn't clean heavily soiled areas as well in cold water.
Keep your colors bright by adding a non-chlorine beach to the wash water, or by using a detergent boosted with color-safe bleach. If you do lots of cold water washes, consider using a laundry detergent designed to work in all temperatures.
For the rinse cycle, cold water is excellent for all types of of loads. So use it! Another benefit: A cold water rinse saves energy per load by up to one-third, and helps minimize wrinkling in synthetic and sturdier fabrics.
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